Hello, I’m Phila, a Recovering Facebook Addict….

First, on October 3, there were the verification requests. I’d just closed a tab, why did I have to login again? Sigh. Enter username, password – why was I having to verify again, and again?! WordPress, Facebook, three other sites – what on earth –???

I didn’t realize until later that night that my new browser was set by default to private sessions – close the tab, you’re logged out. And until Facebook suddenly pulled the plug and locked my account, I had no idea that the big blue F would see my browser’s annoying behavior as highly suspect.

Next thing I knew – just before Facebook’s own world crashed – my account was deactivated. But when 2.8 billion people around the world breathed a sigh of relief as they recovered their pages and data – I was breathing a sigh of relief because – through no effort of my own – my FB addiction was broken, cold-turkey.

No more doomscrolling. No more reflexive clickshares. No mo’ FOMO. Sure, I could show government-issued IDs to reclaim my page (really?!) — but why? For the first time in years I was breathing deeply, fully present. The itch was there to share articles I read, sure – but I couldn’t. And amazingly, with that impossibility, the itch quickly faded.

I haven’t had such a productive week since…I don’t know when.

Facebook for me had been a place for connection with friends, sure, but also a soap box: I loaded my page with shares of news stories and political analyses from NYT, WaPo, LATimes, SFGate, BBC, Reuters, etc.; well-documented environmental memes; statistic-laced calls to mask and vaccinate; ecospiritual blog posts, petitions…..I was proud of my feed; I curated it like a minor newspaper, with a minimum of personal posting. And friends praised the breadth and depth of information I shared; I felt I was offering a service of worth. And those who told me I was too political, too vocal, please sit down and post pictures of food and cats like polite people? They were always welcome to unfollow, I told them.

Meanwhile I met the end of each day exhausted and increasingly depressed and anxious from the immersion in news packed into mealtimes and coffee/water breaks. Distracted and nervy from scrolling my newsfeed, I rarely engaged in personal conversations except in FB self-help groups, adamantly skimmed past the newsfeed flamewars, but who could not see (or unsee) them?

There were the acquaintances passionately posting egregious COVID misinformation, the GOP family member’s laughing emoji at a heart-wrenching news article about refugees…the…..ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I rarely responded…on the occasions when I did, it was usually with one clinical blast of (hopefully) inarguable data and corroborating series of impeccable links, then usually unfollowing the post and turning off notifications. The goal was to educate, not debate.

Even so, toward the end I was checking in on my feed feeling like I was on speed – not in a good way: muscles tensed, heart racing – how could I process this, how could I share responsible, good information that put outrages in a clear and truthful light? Because, surely, it must be communicated, people must be informed!! How else could change occur?

Like the girl in the fairy tale, my feet were locked into the dancing red shoes – I couldn’t stop, couldn’t help myself….until, by the grace of the Goddess, Facebook lowered the boom thanks to my wonky browser.

And suddenly – PEACE. FREEDOM. PRESENCE. FOCUS. Suddenly, I could think – could hear myself think. Could carry on a train of thought, undistracted. My depression and anxiety vanished, creativity came flooding back. I was free of the Facebook trance.

I’d forgotten it was possible to feel so good, so peaceful! Yes, I’m aware that the world is in dire straits; my professional work is focused on promoting educators working for positive change. But I’m not swimming continually in fear, outrage and catastrophe; I am intentionally creating a base of simplicity and serenity in my home, from which I can deal with what must be faced.

Next? Find a way to connect and communicate outside of FB.

I’ve been journaling the journey offline this week, so there will be a couple of back-dated posts until I catch up. I’m hoping that this chronicle will inspire others to take the leap…and rediscover their sanity outside of the FB trance.

Till next time!

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